CINDERELLA King's Theatre, Glasgow until January 11 4/5 ALADDIN King's Theatre, Edinburgh until January 18 3/5 PETER PAN His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen until January 4 3/5 THE huge pantomime at the Glasgow King's has undergone something of a makeover in recent years. Former leading lady Elaine C Smith has retired backstage (now playing the role of "creative producer") and her replacement, much-loved comedienne Karen Dunbar, has emerged as the perfect female lead for the 21st-century reincarnation of the traditional panto.

Add to that the talents of fine comic theatre director Tony Cownie, a clever script from longtime King's panto writer Bob Black and the continuity of the irreplaceable leading man Gerard Kelly, and this year's Cinderella is a winner.

Don't panic, much of the original formula remains. The unimaginative references to popular culture persist (think High School Musical and WALLE), as do the local gags (at the expense of Partick Thistle and, inexplicably, the fabulous St Mirren FC). However, gone are the days of Ms Smith appearing on stage as Britney Spears in schoolgirl mode (an image which remains seared onto my memory, alongside the "Here's Johnny!" moment in The Shining).

Dunbar, who doubles as the Fairy Godmother and the Wicked Stepmother, achieves a nice balance between straight characterisation and winking irony. She can also sing a tune and has an impressive vocal range; how long, one wonders, before those knights of the realm Lloyd Webber and Mackintosh are knocking on her door?

The comedy of old hands Kelly (Buttons) and Andy Gray (whose glaikit Baron Hardup is a real crowd-pleaser) is supplemented brilliantly by what must, surely, be the most hilariously obscene ugly sisters in living memory. Gavin Mitchell (Boabby the barman from Still Game) and Steven McNicoll almost steal the show with performances which are as big and brash (and funny) as their lurid costumes.

However, the most jaw-dropping moment comes in the bold staging of The Proclaimers' song Let's Get Married. Sung by a chorus of stereotypical Glasgow "neds", complete with pushchairs and pregnant teenagers, it reflects an audacious streak more associated with Rab C Nesbitt.

There's less audacity at the Edinburgh King's, where "traditional panto" appears to mean loads of end-of-the-pier single entendres. However, what the old theatre's Aladdin lacks in imagination it attempts to recoup with technology. The much-vaunted 3-D genie achieves much funfair-style screaming, as intended; but live drama is on something of a sticky wicket if its biggest attraction is a computer-generated fairy.

Most of reliable dame Allan Stewart's jokes seem to have come from a saucy seaside postcard, circa 1958 (if you're nostalgic for those old fruit/breasts analogies, this is the show for you). The Blackpool pier theme continues with the skin-tight costumes of the all-female, gymnastic police force (King's favourites the Acromaniacs), who look like a cross between the Keystone Cops and the young women who used to be chased around at the end of The Benny Hill Show. Child-friendly panto? I think not.

The script (written by Paul Elliott, of UK-wide panto juggernaut Qdos, with local references added by Dame Stewart himself) seems like the drooping fag-end of old panto. Ironically, it is the unscripted material that makes the show watchable. Stewart and Grant Stott (as baddie Abanazar) are patently comfortable with each other's ad-libs, and their ability to play off each other is reminiscent of the comic asides of Rikki Fulton and Jack Milroy. King's new boy Johnny Mac also enhances his panto credentials with some fine unscripted banter.

Aberdeen's established pantomime favourite, Alan McHugh, is the lynchpin of His Majesty's Theatre's variable Peter Pan . The main attractions should be Any Dream Will Do finalist Keith Jack (a beautifully sung, but dubiously acted Peter Pan) and former Neighbours actor Alan Fletcher (a very reasonable Captain Hook), but McHugh's rumbustious, invented dame (Maggie Celeste; catchphrase, "ah forgot ah wis a wummin") breathes the most life into an often lacklustre show.

Anyone who loves JM Barrie's famous story will find it hard to forgive HMT director Alan Cohen's Tinkerbell on rollerblades and a terrible slapstick sequence in which Smee (the fine Jordan Young) has water spat on him repeatedly. That said, the physical comedy when Hook calls for the much-feared plank would have been worthy of Charlie Chaplin.

They say never work with children or animals. At the performance I attended, McHugh and Young must have been wishing they'd heeded the warning after they invited on stage 11-year old iconoclast Andrew from Peterhead. The poker-faced Burnhaven Primary pupil questioned the existence of Santa, refused to be drawn on what he wanted for Christmas and, at competition time, preferred the singing of the other side of the theatre to his own. As he exited the stage, Andrew was good value for his goodie bag. Oh yes he was!